Here's a question I've been grappling with for a while now: If your ardor for a band has waned, when do you walk away? You can try to be logical, weighing such questions as ticket price, your opinion of their latest releases, your (OK, my) venue snobbery. Then there are those cases where emotion rules, which is where Travis stands with me. When their Fillmore date was announced, I didn't hesitate to pick up a ticket.
Travis, the Fillmore, May 2, 2007: Or, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gig."
At the peak of Britpop, a week that brought both Jarvis Cocker and Travis to town would've been my equivalent of the high holidays. Even now that my attention has shifted, it remains a big deal. Not that Jarvis and the Travis crew share many characteristics, other than their ability to make me swoon--if Jarvis, in his references and mannerisms, inhabits one end of the spectrum as the quintessentially British performer, Travis occupies the other end, as unabashed populists who happen to be Scottish but whose music is meant to be heard worldwide.
Full disclosure: I loved Travis, though I always knew they would never change my life (a ridiculous measure, I know). They would, however, prove a fun distraction for a stretch. My history with them isn't worth repeating, aside from three salient points: (1) I was a rock tourist long before I was a blogger; (2) 2000 was a great year for shows; and (3) in 1997, I saw Ben Folds Five at the Fillmore, just because Travis opened the gig.
A lot has changed since 2000 (not to mention over the last decade), and I'd be lying if I said Travis's music held the same appeal to me--or that it even matters what I think. They aren't playing Bottom of the Hill anymore, that's for sure. This was apparent from the outset, when I overheard the people around me exchanging band gossip and info that I may have once known (or cared about), or as they sang along at the top of their lungs to nearly every song, even titles from the album officially coming out next week.
But almost as immediately, the much more rewarding emotion known as concert euphoria surfaced when the band unearthed "U16 Girls" from their repertoire. The setlist turned out to be the biggest surprise of the night; while Travis played up the new album, they chose some of my favorite songs from the past, including "As You Are," "Good Feeling," and "Pipe Dreams." Of course, we also got the hits, such as "All I Want to Do Is Rock," "Sing," and the crowd-pleasers from The Man Who, but that much was expected.
As with any Travis show, their music is an important facet of the night, but it's not the only one. The band also traffics in charm, an always elusive quality and one that hasn't diminished over the years. Fran Healy, ever effusive, wasn't as chatty as he used to be, but by any other measure, his warmth and engagement with the audience is second to none. And when he took his place right in front of me for two acoustic songs, I was pretty much in heaven (I love that PA-less shit).
Per usual, Fran and Dougie Payne worked the front of house, if you will, trading quips and other asides. From time to time, Andy Dunlop would charge in from stage left to join in the festivities, while Neil Primrose held steady on the drums. All the while, the band showed off their commitment to each other. Though it could be intense, such as when Fran set his steely attention on Neil, it was never heavy-handed, and it remained playful. Fran even talked Andy into climbing atop the speaker to touch the chandelier!
In the end, their sheer force of personality won me over (again) and silenced the music snob in my head. I was reminded of something Maudie said after the Jarvis Cocker show, about how the man is pure charisma. Travis, too, lays claim to that X factor, a viable and considerable component to any band's success. I don't know if it'll bring them the commercial rewards in the United States that they've always wanted, but from the looks of it, they've captured--and will continue to attract--a faithful fanbase.
Before I end this post, I want to add that it's been a great week for me, not just because of the string of shows I've just seen. I also had a chance to catch up with old friends, as well as hang out with more recent pals. We may not be united in terms of musical tastes these days, but I was very pleased to find that we can still have tons of fun with each other.
Goldspot from Los Angeles opened the show, and I could hear the similarities between their sound and Travis's music. They penned catchy, upbeat tunes. Though they weren't my cup of tea, the audience responded kindly to them.
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